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February 29, 2024

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Indians slow down Twins before playoffs

The Minnesota Twins startled the New York Yankees in last year’s playoffs by going to the Bronx and taking the first game of their first-round series — before losing the final three.

Well, here comes Minnesota’s second chance.

Ben Broussard hit a two-run homer to lift the Cleveland Indians to a 5-2 victory over the Twins on a strange Sunday afternoon that sent the AL Central champs to Yankee Stadium for the start of the postseason.

“It’s going to be a lot of pressure,” said Johan Santana, who will start Game 1 tomorrow night against Mike Mussina. “That’s the way this game is. That’s what we want. That’s what we’re ready for.”

Twenty minutes before the originally scheduled game began, Minnesota beat Cleveland 6-5 in 12 innings to finish Saturday’s suspended game more than 26 hours after it started. Michael Cuddyer’s two-out double scored Jason Bartlett from first base to end it.

Minnesota (92-70), which won its third straight division title, could have started the postseason at home against the wild-card Boston Red Sox with a better finish. After clinching, the Twins went 4-8.

“A little disappointing here at the end, but I’m very proud of this baseball team,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Looking forward to the playoffs.”

The Indians (80-82), who came within a game of the Twins on Aug. 14 before fading, finished with their best record since 2001 and made a 12-game improvement over last year.

“That’s a great mark,” Broussard said. “We got to see some explosive stuff happen.”

Bob Wickman closed the second game with his 13th save in 14 chances after returning from an elbow injury. Cliff Lee (14-8) pitched seven sharp innings and tied Jake Westbrook for the team lead in victories by winning his third straight start.

“Cliff was outstanding again,” manager Eric Wedge said. “Nice to see him finish strong. … It’s as consistent as he’s been all year.”

Cuddyer and Matthew LeCroy each homered off Lee, who gave up two run, five hits and struck out six.

Kyle Lohse (9-13), who pitched a scoreless 12th to win the first game, came right back after a 20-minute intermission and started the second.

After giving up five hits, three runs and striking out five through four innings, Lohse — throwing on three days’ rest — left with a blister on his right middle finger.

A 27-game winner over the last two seasons, Lohse baffled the Twins this year with his inconsistency. He went 6-6 after the All-Star break and finished on a better note, leaving open the possibility of starting in Game 4 against New York — if it’s necessary and if Santana can’t go on three days rest.

“I made some pretty good strides,” Lohse said.

Josh Phelps, Josh Bard and Ryan Ludwick hit consecutive two-out singles in the second, with Ludwick driving in Phelps to make it 1-0.

Grady Sizemore, who fell a double short of the cycle in the first game, hit an RBI triple in the ninth inning of the second game and scored on Grant Balfour’s wild pitch to make it 5-2. After collecting a single, a triple and a home run Saturday, Sizemore grounded out leading off the 12th and finished 3-for-5 with three runs.

Shannon Stewart had two hits in the second game for Minnesota, his first action since Sept. 25 because of tightness in his right hamstring.

The teams were tied at 5 after 11 innings Saturday when play was halted at 2:33 p.m. because the Metrodome field needed to be converted for a college football game between Penn State and Minnesota.

David Riske (7-3), who started the 12th for the Indians, gave up Cuddyer’s winning hit in the first game. Ludwick picked it up in the gap and threw to second baseman Brandon Phillips — who fired home to catcher Victor Martinez.

Martinez couldn’t get his glove low enough as Bartlett’s leg touched the plate before the tag.

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